When my first book, The Word Eater, was published back in 2000 with Holiday House, I received a hot-off-the-press copy with a handwritten note from John Briggs, the publisher. John has retired, and Holiday House–the first publisher in the U.S. dedicated to only publishing books for children–is growing and changing in many ways. But in one crucial way, Holiday House has remained the same. This past week, Holiday House published my 22nd book, and when my first hot-off-the-press copy came with a handwritten note from my editor, Mary Cash, I cried. I cried because her note symbolized that the production was a human act. It may seem ridiculously obvious. But too often, technology can dehumanize interactions and processes. People who take the time to write and send a handwritten note send a message: our efforts and our partnerships as human beings have value.
If you’re a fan of the Star Striker series, here is a collection of resources:
KIDLIT TV INTERVIEW
MORE COMING SOON…
“This is my favorite part of every week!”
Join award-winning author Mary Amato via ZOOM in her writing studio every Friday from 1:00 to 1:30 EST pm
In these popular online mini-workshops, Mary presents an energized talk about a different rhetorical device or process-oriented writing tip and then leads a writing exercise each week. Some of the exercises are designed to be like cognitive workouts for the brain while others are designed to tap into the subconscious and exercise the imagination. Participants are not pressured to share what they write. The focus is on enjoying the writing process.
The experience is for adults. But if you’re a young adult who loves to write, reach out through a parent or guardian and we can find out if the sessions would be a good fit. What we cover will cross genres and can be useful in writing memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, plays, creative nonfiction, and journal writing.
Each session is just $5.00 (plus a small processing fee) and you can register for one or more months at a time. After you register, you’ll receive an invoice via email. Payment is made through a credit card or a Paypal account online. After your invoice is paid, you’ll receive a zoom link that will be the same for each class that month. There are no make-up lessons and no refunds. I will not cancel. If for some reason, I cannot teach a session, I will arrange for a qualified guest teacher.
IF YOU’D LIKE TO JOIN A MONTH THAT HAS ALREADY BEGUN, please send a message and you can be invoiced separately for the month’s remaining lessons.
READY TO JUMP IN?
Register using this form.
A book sale & fitness event to benefit nonprofit DC SCORES
Game On! is the first book in a new series for ages 8-12 by award-winning author Mary Amato about a young athlete who is recruited to play in an interplanetary soccer tournament and must learn to train both mind and body for this high-stakes, out-of-this-world challenge!
Purchase one or more books through this special sale event and author Mary Amato will donate proceeds to the nonprofit DC SCORES. Plus, with every order you will receive a free family pass to attend the GAME ON! MIND AND BODY FITNESS ZOOM (more info below).
Your purchase can also be sent as a gift and/or donated to a DC SCORES youth participant.
To participate in this benefit book sale and fitness event, you must use this form and complete your order by 9/30/21. $17.99 plus $5.00 shipping per book. Autograph instructions are included in the form. When you complete your order, you will receive your free pass for the zoom event.
More on DC SCORES
DC SCORES is an award-winning nonprofit serving elementary and middle-schoolers across the District through a unique combination of soccer, poetry, and service-learning. Their 3,000+ “poet-athletes” play in free soccer leagues, write and perform original works of poetry, and design and execute service projects based on those poems—all as part of school-based teams. Their successful model has been replicated in 10 other cities through America SCORES.
More on the Fitness Event
GAME ON! MIND AND BODY FITNESS ZOOM will be held online from 10-10:45 am on Saturday, October 9. Being an author and being an athlete have a lot in common. Both require training, creativity, and collaboration. In this interactive, intergenerational ZOOM session, you will get the chance to meet author Mary Amato and then participate in a fun family-friendly fitness workout with athlete and fitness coach Simon Amato, co-founder of Life of Gains.
Blast Off! Get Your Brain and Body Moving—and Support DC SCORES!
Announcing the first book in the new Star Striker series . . .
Albert Kinney, a 13-year-old soccer player, assumes the worst when he is abducted by aliens from planet Zeeno. So, he’s shocked when the Zeenods recruit him to play their solar system’s version of soccer, called johka, and ask him to compete in an Olympics-level interplanetary tournament. Yet just as he is introduced to the high-tech gear and the dangerous eruptions of strange liquid that occur during play on the johka field, he faces a series of direct threats to his life. Does someone have a mysterious vendetta against Albert? Or does their first opponent, the ruthless team from Planet Tev, want to guarantee that they win? It’s even worse. As Albert grows to love the Zeenods, he learns that the aggressive Tevs want to wipe out the entire Zeeno culture and gain complete control over the remarkable planet.
To survive the ordinary social and emotional challenges of middle-school life as well as the extraordinary physical challenges of a johka competition would be hard enough, but Albert wants much more than that. He wants to help return Zeeno to the Zeenods before it’s too late. Action-packed, yet filled with humor and heart, Star Striker is the first in a series exploring the transforming and luminous power that occurs when individuals from vastly different worlds learn how to truly unite.
“Readers will instantly connect with Albert and his struggles at home, school, and with the sport he loves.”—Kirkus Reviews
Best for ages 8-12.
Imagine you are an alien from another planet and you travel to earth. You see kids playing basketball. How would you describe it? You taste a cheese sandwich. How would you describe that?
I gave West fifth graders the following challenge: choose an object and then describe it as if you are an alien writing about it in a postcard that you are sending back home to Mars. Dear Mom, You’ll never believe what I saw here on Earth . . .
Thinking like an alien can be a good way to exercise your skill at describing something. Often when we write, we come up with some good description, but we simply don’t provide enough details to help the reader to really imagine it.
After the exercise, I shared two examples from the novel I’m currently working on. Each example showed my first draft and then my revision. The details I added in my revision made a big difference and helped the writing to feel alive.
My West Education Campus Fifth Grade Writing Residency is supported by An Open Book Foundation. I’ll be posting a once-per-month essay about the experience between December 2020 and May 2021. See the other posts in this series.
Free Zoom/Skype Day
Every year, I offer on free Zoom/Skype day. During the year, I take reservations for time slots for free 15-minute Q-and A on a first-come, first-served basis.
To schedule a free Q&A session, please email me info (at) maryamato (dot) com from your school/library email address with all of the following info listed in one message:
- Preferred time (listing your time zone, please)
- Your name
- Name of school, snail mail address, and phone number of school or library
- Grade level(s), size of audience, and book(s) on which you’d like the Q/A to focus
- Let me know if Zoom is fine to use as the platform or if your school has other requirements.
If your session is approved, you will receive guidelines via email and your school name will be added to this schedule.
Introducing a new series of entertaining and educational videos, each focused on a different rhetorical device that you can employ to make your writing pop. These videos are brought to you by Firefly Shadow Theater. Watch them all and share them with writers, students, and teachers. We’ll be posting more videos as we create them. Stay tuned also for our forthcoming guide and quiz. Shadow puppets, scripts, and music by Mary Amato and Andrea Caspari; video design and production by Christoph Drösser.
If you’re interested in joining Mary Amato’s online writing class, please see info here.
West Education Campus Residency
December 11, 2020
When I join the first online session for my writing residency with West Education Campus, a handful of fifth graders are already on, talking to their teachers Ms. Wolf and Ms. Snell about the new video game they’re enjoying. The moment I pop into an online class always feels like a bit like magic. One second I’m sitting alone in my writing studio and the next second—POOF!—I’m in the middle of a room full of people, except we’re all still in our own homes!
Immediately, the students make me smile and feel lucky to be here. I love kid energy, and the teachers are radiating enthusiasm and curiosity, too.
In preparation, Ms. Wolf has written that the fifth graders have been studying extended metaphors and have just read Walt Whitman’s poem about Abraham Lincoln’s death: O Captain! My Captain! So, after the remaining students arrive and we get started, I introduce a metaphor of my own. “When I was your age,” I tell them, “I was a big chicken.”
We spend the next ten minutes sharing our fears. I confess mine and hear some of theirs, including closing your eyes while shampooing because there could be a demon in the faucet.
The surprised looks when I tell them that I was scared of writing isn’t surprising. Lots of people think that writing must come easily to writers. “You can really want to do something and still be afraid to do it,” I say, and I see lots of nods. It happens when you’re trying to learn something new or trying to do something difficult, whether it’s in music, sports, or schoolwork.
We talk about the idea that we each have a negative inner voice that talks to us and discourages us. You can’t, the voice says. You’ll make a mistake. You won’t be good at this!
That inner voice is the dragon of fear. Lately I’ve been calling my inner negative voice Grunkle. Grunk for short. I show the students my writer’s notebook in which I have a sketch of Grunk. A chimera—half woman and half dragon.
Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, I have also written a note to Grunk, firmly telling the dragon to leave me alone, and I share the note with the kids. The idea is that you have to acknowledge your fear is there and then you can choose to overcome it.
I also show how I made a Grunk out of stiff paper that I folded at the bottom so that she can stand up on my desk. Humor is helpful in overcoming fears and anxieties. So when I’m feeling especially anxious, I can act out my power over Grunk. Sometimes I flick her off my desk, or stick her face down under a heavy book or literally blow her away. Sorry, Grunk, but I’m not listening to you now, it’s time to create!
Of course, I always rescue Grunk in the end because I like having this prop to help me write.
(Students, take a look at how much better my final Grunk is compared to my initial sketch. Revising a first draft, whether you’re drawing or writing, is how you improve.)
During question-time at the end, one student prefaces his by saying it isn’t really a question. I love to hear comments because they help me to discover what’s going on in students’ minds. He reveals that he’s thinking about how I described my fear and he’s thinking that maybe my desire to want to be good at writing even if writing can be hard and scary pushes me in a good way. Overcoming fear can make you stronger.
Yes! Yes! That blows me away.
I cannot wait until our next meeting. Most of my day is spent writing. It’s like I’m alone at sea in a little boat. How lucky I am that this big ship is going to pull up once a month with all the students and their teachers on deck, waving at me and saying, “Come aboard, Mary Amato! Time to sail with us!”
My West Education Campus Fifth Grade Writing Residency is supported by An Open Book Foundation. I’ll be posting a once-per-month essay about the experience between December 2020 and May 2021.
What is it?
The Creative Momentum Collective is a membership-based collective of working artists who are each committed to a long-term creative project, such as a novel, a stage play, a series of paintings, etc. Each member joins with a specific project in mind and the intention to move that project forward. Once per month, members meet online for a facilitated meeting/work session.
The objectives of the collective are two-fold: to move forward with work on a specific project and to inspire and support colleagues to move forward on their work.
Following through on an ambitious project alone can be challenging for a variety of reasons:
- Our last project ended with the sting of rejection that is undermining our confidence.
- We have too many ideas that pull and push and we struggle to commit to just one.
- We are isolated and crave collegial community.
- We need an external driver, a deadline, someone out there who is rooting for us to finish.
Our conviction is that a collective of people working on independent projects can encourage the discipline and generate the inspiration that help us all move forward. When we work in community with others, we both give and we get—and in doing so everybody gets more done.
What do we mean by long-term creative project?
- A creative writing work of any type—from memoir to novel, screenplay to stage play, and everything in between.
- A visual endeavor—from photography to painting, film to graphic novel, and everything in between.
- A music or sound concept—from orchestral score to podcast, song cycle to musical, and everything in between.
- A category-defying dream—from costumes to puppetry, gadgets to games, and, yes, everything in between.
How does it work?
We are asking for serious applicants only. Currently six-month commitments are available. The next session is from end of July to beginning of January.
The primary purpose of the membership fee is for us all to hold ourselves accountable. We will use the fees to cover basic administrative and facilitation costs. If membership exceeds our wildest dreams, revenue we collect beyond our objective costs will be donated on behalf of all of us, to Carpe Diem Arts, a nonprofit that brings arts and artists to underserved communities.
A. Complete application form, which includes the following:
1. Project Mission Statement
This will be a short, general project description that each of us is willing to share with the group. Keep it simple but be sure to set your objectives. Examples:
- I’m writing a historical novel. My goal is to complete a rough draft of all 12 chapters in 12 months.
- I’m creating an online exhibit of my landscape photographs. My goal is to have 24 photographs, an artist statement, and a web update in 6 months.
- I’m making a series of miniature sculptures that explore climate change. My goal is to sketch drafts, get feedback, and then produce at least four pieces in six months.
2. A Short Bio (250 words max).
3. A Pledge (to participate with mutual respect and positive energy).
B. If your application is accepted, you’ll be instructed to pay the membership fee. (Contact us if need-based scholarship is required to participate):
$120 total for six months.
What happens at the monthly gatherings?
Each of our monthly gatherings will follow the same structure and will be held the final Sunday of each month from 1:00-4:00 pm. EST. (There may be some exceptions; a schedule will be posted.) For now, the gatherings will be held on Zoom. In the future, the gatherings may include opportunities for in-person and/or hybrid participation.
Welcome (5 minutes)
We log in, ready to go, and say hello.
Intentions (30 minutes)
We break into small groups. Each participant will have a few minutes to share project updates and current focus. Although this may sound like a short amount of time, brevity encourages clarity.
Optional Office Hours (30 minutes)
Those of us wanting more time to hash out a particular snag or obstacle with other members can join an optional breakout room.
Independent Work Session (60-90 minutes)
We log off and jump into fully-focused, undisturbed work.
Progression Confession (30 minutes)
We resume in breakout groups and each participant will take a few minutes to share what they’ve learned. Mistakes or triumphs. We consider trying and failing to be as much progress as trying and succeeding, as long as we’re willing to learn from it.
Schmooze (30 minutes)
We come together as a full group to bond and share our collective power. We’ll also be setting our individual goals for the next month.
How can I apply?
To get started, complete the application form.
Launching the CMC is a first step. If the concept takes off and our community grows, we can see creating a CMC website as well as additional opportunities for CMC members, such as salons, public performances and lectures, and more.
Let’s invest in ourselves, energize our creative community, and form the Creative Momentum Collective.
Creative Momentum Collective Facilitators
Mary Amato is a writer, performing artist, speaker, teacher, and facilitator. Her published written work includes poetry, personal essays, and nonfiction, as well as more than two dozen award-winning novels for children and young adults. She’s also a musician and shadow-puppet artist and the co-founder of www.fireflyshadowtheater.com. She has created and delivered workshops, lectures, classes, and retreats for many organizations around the country including The American Library Association, Johns Hopkins University, Carpe Diem Arts, The National Theater, Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center, and more. Over the years, she has founded many arts-oriented, community-building groups, including The Silver Spring Town Center Arts Salon, The Hive, The Brown Bag for Creatives, and SoHy Sing. Mary is currently working on a science-fiction trilogy, a collection of essays, and a series of animated shorts.
Diana Friedman is an award-winning writer whose fiction, articles and essays have appeared in numerous publications including New Letters, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, The Baltimore Sun, Bethesda Magazine and Whole Earth Review. She is the recipient of the Alexander Patterson Cappon Fiction Prize and a Pushcart Prize nomination, and her work has been selected as a finalist /short listed at multiple presses. She has received funding from the Arts and Humanities council of Montgomery County and was a National Park Artist-in-Residence at Catoctin Mountain Park. Teaching is also integral to Diana’s commitment to the writing community. She has taught creative writing at Writopia Lab, professional writing at the University of Maryland, facilitated small group workshops, and currently co-leads a long-term writing group at the New Directions Program at the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. Diana also considers herself a midwife for emerging artists, helping those new to the artistic process to claim their voice. At the start of the pandemic, she brought together a community of artists and writers to produce a “people’s voice” snapshot. She is currently working on a novel, environmental essays, and a project to unite artists and scientists working to address the climate crisis.
Collective members who are offering relevant classes may submit info to us, and we’ll share here.
Classes, Workshops, Retreats
- Writer’s Studio with Mary Amato
Join Mary Amato every Friday from 1:00-1:30 pm EST for an energizing mini-lecture followed by a writing exercise. Fees and schedule info.
- Creative Writing Lecture/Retreats
Coming will be a series of online lectures as well as retreats led by a variety of writers.
Coaching, Manuscript and/or Project Consultation
The following members provide one-on-one consultation services. Please contact individuals to find out about fees.